How To Play The River
This is it, the final street and the final stage of the hand. If the pot comes down to a showdown then the best hand will win. That is not always the case however, because this is also a betting round and part of what makes poker such a game of skill. At this point you no longer need to be calculating outs because there are no more cards to come. The factors that you need to consider that should influence your course of action on the River are the best hand that you can make, the size of the pot, the other players still in the hand and their possible range of holdings, and the action that has taken place on the previous streets.
What do the other players in the hand have?
You have to use your knowledge of the other players in the hand that you gathered from previous hands that you played with them or watched them play. You also need to consider their betting actions during this hand on previous streets so that you can determine a possible range of hands that they could now be holding. The better you are at this skill, the more success that you will have in the game of poker. Remember that other players in the hand will be trying to figure the same thing out about you so you need to also consider what your own table image is and how your betting actions on the previous streets of this hand look to the other players so that you can determine what possible range of hands that you think that they are putting you on.
Should you call?
To answer this question you have to ask yourself a few questions. What do you think the chances are that your hand will win in a show down. Balance this with the amount of money in the pot to determine if it makes sense to call. How did the river card change things? If you have been betting through previous streets with top pair and the river brought a third or fourth of a suit, or a straight possibility, then your hand may no longer be any good. Remember that at the end of a poker session, your winning or losing is not just based upon how much money was in the pots that you raked in, it is also based upon how much money that you put in to pots that you did not take down.
Should you bet or raise?
This depends on how the action has transpired so far in the hand, the cards that you hold, what you believe that the other players in the hand have, and your position at the table. If you are in late position and it is checked to you then you need to decide if you want to bet for value, bet to take down the pot, or check to see if you can win in a show down.
Should you try to bluff?
Bluffing at this stage of the hand is possible but only if the other players in the hand missed a draw or the bet that you make is big enough to make it not worth their while to make the call. The more money that there is in the pot, the more likely that a player with a marginal hand will call. They will figure that if the pot is 4 times the amount of the call then they would only need to win with this call 1 out of every 4 times to break even. If you are playing in a lower stakes limit hold em game then you should just forget about trying to bluff at this point at all. In that kind of a game someone will call you, you can count on it.